Where did I get the idea for the DUKE?
I knew the kind of hero I wanted to write about, and what a challenge he was, not being a bad boy or one of those in-your-face macho alpha warrior types I so enjoy. He's much more civilized and cautious, responsible and tempered than any hero I've written about to date. I think, and I hope for the reader, he will be very real. Everything else eventually evolved out of Robert's character. As the story grew organically, I saw that it was a real opportunity to vent some of my frustration with the age-old double standard of how sexual freedom is judged in women, as opposed to how it is with men. But one of my main goals, thematically, for this work was to explore the emotional after-shocks of rape on a woman's self-perception, self-esteem, and sexuality. The ultimate message is, of course, that love heals all.
Q: I've noticed that all of your books are very historically accurate. How much research do you do before you write a book like THE DUKE?
For a long time, I have long planned on writing historicals set in the
Regency, as those are my favorite types of historical romances to read, thus,
I began researching the period while I was still writing my Ascension books.
The process was greatly enhanced by my honeymoon to England two years ago.
(Hoping to go back again soon!) Despite all my efforts to do meticulous
research, the odds are that there will be something in there that I got
wrong. It's not what you research, but the questions you didn't even think to
ask which generally tend to come up and bite you on your sit-upon. So there
is my research disclaimer.
Q: Ever run across any historical tidbit that you had to put in a story? What?
Tons. The lifeblood of a novel is in the 'fine, specific detail,' line by line, and much of that comes from research. THE DUKE is full of little factoids. To a lesser degree, so is my second novel PRINCESS, while the other two volumes in the Ascension Trilogy are more fantasy oriented. (In PRINCESS, Napoleon, Josephine, and Eugene Beauharnaise all make cameos.) Just about every character in THE DUKE except for the heroine, the hero, and his family, are real historical personages--Harriette Wilson and her sisters, Wellington, Castlereagh, Eldon, Sir Walter Scott, Southey, etc.
Q: I've heard through the grapevine that you are already winning awards for this novel and it hasn't even come out yet! When you finished writing this book what did you feel? Did you know that it was going to be so successful?
Awards?? Um, Cybil, my dear, you know something I don't! All I can tell you is that while writing this book I was trembling that people might not accept a courtesan heroine. Will they understand that a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do? I wondered. As to its success, may it go from your mouth to God's ears, as my old Irish granny would say.
Q: Ooops! Well I swear a little birdie mentioned something while I was in Houston…but heck it was chaos and what the hell do I know! …but I do hope I overheard correctly *wink*
Q: After reading THE DUKE I glommed your other books. Although your writing voice is very distinct in all your books, THE DUKE seems to be a completely different style for you. Was there something about this story that is different than your other books? You of course are allowed to tell me that I am crazy, and that you have NO idea what I am talking about :)
No, you're definitely right. (Thank you for seeking out my backlist, by the
way!) I don't really know what happened.
A lot of this has to do with the hero. I am of the persuasion that, in
general, the hero sets the tone of the book; this hero is *very* different
from my other guys, so of course his book would reflect that. I hate to
repeat myself. In a lot of ways I tend to do exactly the opposite kind of
character than the one who went just before. Rafe in PRINCE CHARMING is the
total opposite of Robert in THE DUKE. Rafe is the playboy from hell, while
Robert is the kind of guy who, if you brought him home, your mother would get
starry-eyed and immediately start dreaming of grandchildren.
Q: I must be honest. As I got closer to the end of the book I _really_ didn't know how the hero could marry his mistress. It seemed so impossible for them to be together. What was it like writing a heroine that in true Regency history wouldn't be able to marry her man without serious repercussions?
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Mary Jo Putney, Laura Kinsale, Anne Stuart, Julia Quinn, Nicole Jordan, Jo Beverley, and Susan Wiggs.
Q: If you only got 5 books to keep for the rest of your life (the horror!) which would they be?
Yes, the horror, indeed! Let's see…
1. My trusty NORTON'S ANTHOLOGY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE, Vol. 2 (Can't live without Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge)
2. My Riverside SHAKESPEARE
3. Tempted to say my AGE OF NAPOLEON by Will Durant, whom I wish had been my grandfather
4. Ovid's METAMORPHOSES
5. One of my many cheesy self-hope motivational, inspirational paperbacks, such as Tony Robbins' books (What can I say? I'm a total neurotic who needs constant reassurance. Even more so if I found myself on a desert island, since I have a phobia of going in the water.
Q: Got any words of wisdom for the aspiring writers out there? Any good research sources?
Are you kidding? I have 3 younger sisters: Giving advice is the delight of my life.
To the aspiring writers: I know New York publishing sometimes seems like the Death Star, to which you send your lovingly written manuscript, only to have Darth Vader incinerate them with his light saber, but there *are* still editors out there who long to find the next new talent to publish and present to the world. I should know. I sold my first book to Ballantine over the transom, ie, sans agent, sans contacts, with no earlier conference "editor appointment," no contest wins, nothing but a soulfully written manuscript that I was willing to revise with my wonderful editor's guidance. I firmly believe that a well-written, WELL-CONSTRUCTED book will sell itself, even more so if you leave out the taboos, give a beloved classic plot theme a fresh twist, and structure your plot with lots of strong conflict and powerfully motivated characters. (Weak conflict is the biggest problem I see when I judge unpublished contests.)
Also, I would encourage aspiring writers not to idealize too much what it's like to be a working writer. I would love to tell you that I live in a pink mansion overlooking the sea and have my shirtless butler, a Brad Pitt look-alike, bring me strawberry daquiries in the garden while I write on my laptop clad in a taffeta evening gown. Alas, I would be lying.
I have begun to see, now that I am coming into my second full year as a published author, that the MAIN REWARD of being successful in this business is that you get to stay home all day in your jammies and write, in other words, the main reward is the joy of the process. Once you break in to the business, there are so many forces that threaten to drain that joy away.
For example, take reviews. Most aspiring writers probably think it's a little spoonful of heaven to get a Top Pick review from RT or a nod of approval from Publisher's Weekly, or to win the Golden Leaf. Well, okay, it's pretty cool--but you can easily start to "need" that to feel excited about writing, and that is a very dangerous situation, indeed.
Think about it. If you get all excited about the good stuff, then that implies an external focus, and that means you will be devastated by the bad opinions that are just as sure to come. Thus, in my humble philosophy, it's best to shrug off both, lest they throw off your creative equilibrium. You can't do good work if you get a big head, or if you've had your nerves shattered by one of those online sites who have made a bloodsport out of reviewing romances. It's essential that you keep an internal focus to nurture the writing.
See, this is the advantage that as-yet-unpublished writers still have. You
guys are still working in privacy, your talent safe and warm inside the
incubator, growing inside your eggshells. Once you are little fuzzy
hatchlings, ie, debut authors, prepare to be thrown into the shark tank.
This business can make you nuts because the only thing you CAN control is what you put on the page--and I don't know about you, but I can't "control" my muse every day. Some days she simply won't cooperate. I think most aspiring writers would be shocked to know that we authors have no control over: terms of our contracts for most new writers, release date, cover art, cover blurb, list position, publisher promotions, sales, distribution, or even how long our books will stay in print. You just have to "kiss it up to God" and enjoy writing your book. Period.
As to the supposed easy fortunes to be made from writing romances, from what I have seen, even the most successful authors make what approximates a respectable white-collar level living, not zillions of dollars. The great majority bring in a part time or corporate entry level income from full-time-plus effort. It's all the luck of the draw, such as how fast you can write a good book and how fast your publisher is willing to publish you. Another wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee point is, of course, that as an "out of the closet" romance writer, you will be continually subjected to the prejudice of literary snobs and the leering looks of men with dirty minds. It's not *all* wine and roses.
To sum up, here's my view. If you're diligently writing for your own pleasure and a love of the art form, and you happen to get published, marvelous. You are in for a joyous process and things will probably unfold smoothly for you.
Conversely, if you LIVE to get published and would stab your critique partner
before you would see her get an offer from a good house before you,
If you're still with me, I do have 2 research recommendations…
Q: Well that WAS a lot Gaelen! But I think you have eloquently said exactly what most authors feel as they go through the process.*grin* Now those recommendations.
I hope I may plug the work of London historian Richard Tames. Look him up at BN.com and you'll be amazed. He is highly prolific and has written on countless subjects. I would recommend his work across the board, particularly his AMERICAN WALKS IN LONDON or TRAVELERS HISTORY OF LONDON.
My latest Regency-related purchase is JANE AUSTEN IN STYLE by Susan Watkins. This is a wonderful book with beautiful illustrations. Extremely useful.
Q: Can you give us any information on your next project?
Work continues on the Knight Miscellany series! In Spring 2002, I will be
releasing two lead titles in two consecutive months about Lucien and Damien
Knight, the twins from the Knight family. The titles of these books are LORD
OF FIRE and LORD OF ICE. Lucien (FIRE) is a spy with the Foreign Office and
Damien (the ICE man) is a decorated war-hero.
Better not say more or I'll jinx myself. Q: Thank you so much for giving us this intervie. I loved your book and can't wait to see more! Thank you so much for having me and for all your support. Keep up the great
work on Rakehell.com! Love this website! Happy Holidays, everyone, and God
save the Queen.
Q: Thank you so much for giving us this intervie. I loved your book and can't wait to see more!
Thank you so much for having me and for all your support. Keep up the great
work on Rakehell.com! Love this website! Happy Holidays, everyone, and God
save the Queen.